‘Two outrageous operas in one crazy evening,’ reads the bill. Hyperbole? Certainly not when the operas are two of Jacques Offenbach’s more off-the-wall bouffoneries and when the company is Opera della Luna whose artistic director, Jeff Clarke, is blessed with the comic imagination and theatrical nous to turn even the most vacuous trivia into a sharp and sassy riotous romp.
This performance of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Glyndebourne was so good that it was the highlight of the whole season, making the term ‘revival’ utterly irrelevant. Jakub Hr?öa is always stimulating, but on this occasion, his conducting was so inspired that I found myself closing my eyes in order to concentrate on what he revealed in Britten’s quirky but brilliant score. Eyes closed in this famous production by Peter Hall, first seen in 1981?
It was the fifth Proms Chamber Music concert at Cadogan Hall this season, and we were celebrating Shakespeare’s 400th. And, given the extent and range of the composers and artists, and the diversity and profundity of the musical achievement inspired by the Bard, we could probably keep celebrating in this fashion ad infinitum.
This highly enjoyable Prom, part of 2016’s ‘Proms at …’ mini-series, took as its guiding concept the reopening of London’s theatres following the Restoration, focusing in particular upon musical and dramatic responses to Shakespeare. Purcell, rightly, loomed large, with John Blow and Matthew Locke joining him. Receiving their Proms premieres were the excerpts from Timon of Athens and those from Locke’s The Tempest.
Two men, one woman. Both men worshipped and enshrined her in their music. The younger man was both devotee of and rival to the elder.
The Queen of Spades has been doing rather well in and around London of late. I have only seen two stagings recently before this, but know of quite a few others. Of those: Opera North offered a rare lapse at the Barbican, about which the less said, the better; ENO, last year, offered strong vocal performances but a truly catastrophic production. All in all, then, Holland Park, as so often, came off best.
Dvo?·k’s cello concerto is certainly one of the best known works for the instrument, and probably one of the best loved. Its Bohemian sensibility is by turns heroic, ebullient, poetic and wistful. Its soulfulness can inspire bravura impulsiveness from a soloist, as well as warm lyricism.
Saturday night seems to be Berlioz-Shakespeare night. After last week’s new production of BÈatrice and BÈnÈdict at Glyndebourne, yesterday evening it was the turn of the Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s Orchestre RÈvolutionnaire et Romantique and Monteverdi Choir, with the National Youth Choir of Scotland, to tell us a Shakespearean tale ‡ la franÁaise. Not a ‘merry war’ this time, but the star-crossed strife and fatal misunderstandings of Romeo and Juliet.
Bernard Haitink has what is absolutely necessary, yet more often than not lacking, to conduct a Mahler symphony, indeed to conduct any symphony worthy of the name: the ability to hear it in a single span and to communicate in performance that ability. That is not, of course, in itself enough to ensure a successful, let alone a great, performance, but its absence will be fatal.
In many respects, this second ‘Festspiel-Barockkonzert’ made for an intriguing pendant to the previous night’s premiere of Les Indes galantes. All of the music was earlier than Rameau’s opÈra-ballet, some of that in the first half – the programme was broadly but not pedantically chronological – considerably earlier.